Focus on recruitment

While retaining our current workforce remains a priority, the NHS must also renew efforts to rapidly recruit across all roles and professions. The significant surge in interest in careers in the NHS has been accompanied by wider changes to the labour market that have increased the pool of potential candidates. There is an urgent need to recruit new people to NHS Test and Trace, and to run an unprecedented winter flu vaccination campaign, as well as potentially a COVID-19 vaccination campaign.

Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust (LTHT) has developed a career pathway for nursing staff which has helped the trust to significantly exceed the public sector apprenticeship target and provide employment to the local community.

We need to make the most of the current high profile of the NHS to recruit at pace and scale, focusing on domestic recruitment, international recruitment and encouraging staff to return to practice:

Local recruitment

  • Increasing local recruitment Employers must increase their recruitment to roles such as clinical support workers and, in doing so, highlight the importance of these roles for patients and other healthcare workers, as well as potential career pathways to other, registered, roles.
  • Growing apprenticeships Employers should offer more apprenticeships, ranging from entry-level jobs through to senior clinical, scientific and managerial roles. This is a key route into a variety of careers in the NHS, giving individuals the opportunity to earn and gain work experience while achieving nationally recognised qualifications.
  • Expanding the primary care workforce Primary care networks, supported by systems and ICSs, should take immediate action to recruit additional roles funded by the Additional Roles Reimbursement Scheme, which will fund 26,000 additional staff until 2023/24.

International recruitment

  • Building local hubs Health systems have a key role in helping to resume international recruitment by supporting local international recruitment hubs. As part of NHS England’s international recruitment nursing programme we will incentivise trusts to develop lead-recruiter and system-level models of international recruitment, which will improve support to new starters as well as being more efficient and better value for money.
  • Increasing international recruitment NHS England and HEE are working with government to increase our ethical international recruitment and build partnerships with new countries, making sure the supplying country is positively impacted, as well as the individual health worker and the NHS. This will include work to remove barriers to recruitment and increasing capacity for induction and support.
  • English language training Recognising the high standards required by UK regulators, Health Education England will pilot new English language training programmes for international nurses. These will offer high-quality and cost-effective language training and include new models for online education and assessment, enabling nurses to more rapidly achieve the necessary standards.
  • Co-ordinated international marketing NHS England will work with government to establish a new international marketing campaign through 2020/21, to promote the NHS as an employer of choice for international health workers.
  • Health and care visa In July 2020 the Government announced the introduction of a new Health and Care Visa, which will launch in August 2020. This visa will make it quicker, cheaper and easier for registered health staff to come from overseas to work in the NHS, the social care sector or for an organisation providing NHS commissioned services. Those applying will be exempt from the Immigration Health Surcharge, benefit from 50% visa fee reductions and can an expect a decision within three weeks of their application, following biometric enrolment. Anyone else working in health or social care, who has paid the Immigration Health Surcharge on or after 31 March 2020 will be able to claim reimbursements for time they have worked in the sector, from October 2020.

Return to practice

  • Encouraging former staff to return to the NHS Employers and systems, in partnership with social care, should encourage our former staff members to return to practice as a key part of a recruitment drive during 2020/21, building on the interest of some of the clinical staff who returned to the NHS in the early COVID-19 response, and have now expressed an interest in staying on in the health and care system (see Encouraging return to clinical practice). NHS England and HEE will continue to work with professional regulators to support staff who returned to the service under a temporary professional register to return to the permanent register if they wish to continue working in the NHS. This will include providing help to staff – to meet registration requirements and ensure they feel confident when returning to practice – as well as finding placements for them with employers. We will continue to work in partnership with social care to ensure that the thousands of nurses and other healthcare staff who temporarily returned to employment during COVID-19 are aware of opportunities to support the sector.
  • Supporting return to practice HEE is exploring the development of a return to practice scheme for other doctors in the remainder of 2020/21, creating a route from temporary professional registration back to full registration. This would build on existing return to practice schemes for nurses, allied health professionals, GPs and pharmacists.

Milton Keynes University Hospital NHS Trust’s unique staff benefits programme for its 4,500-strong workforce has seen staff retention rates improve with the staff turnover rate now under 10%.

Encouraging return to clinical practice

In March 2020, the professional regulators for nurses, doctors and allied health professionals, pharmacists and pharmacy technicians wrote to nearly 70,000 staff who had retired within the past three years. Later, they wrote also to those who had been out of practice for longer and to those whose licenses were no longer current.

There was an overwhelming response. At the time of publishing:

15,245 had completed pre-employment checks

8,755 had been deployed to acute services for employment

2,140 had been employed across NHS 111, NHS Test and Trace, acute trusts and social care

The NHS was able to manage demand during the COVID-19 peak, so not as many of this group were needed as anticipated. But we cannot turn our back on this critical opportunity to boost our workforce with many experienced former clinicians.

A recent survey of returners revealed that around 50% were ‘interested in continuing to work in the health and social care system in the medium to long term in some capacity’. Almost half of this group – 49% – are aged below 60.